County Board Supports Right to Work Initiative


Published on April 20 2015 10:12 pm
Last Updated on April 20 2015 10:12 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County Board Monday voted 7-2 to endorse The Turnaround Agenda promoted by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, including a provision to create Right to Work zones.

One of the largest crowds ever seen at a County Board was on hand for the vote, made up primarily of union workers, although there was a contingent of supporters of the initiative.

A resident of Summit Township is a member of the Bricklayers Local, who read a quote from a labor scholar who doesn't see a benefit to Right to Work laws. His contention is that Right to Work provisions put constraints on collective bargaining, curtail efforts to promote the minimum wage, and disempower workers. 

Jason McKinley of Lincolnland Building Trades Local said the term "Right to Work" is deceptive, and that everyone has a right to work. McKinley said unions are in place because a majority of workers wanted them. He also noted gains won by unions benefit everyone, since non-union employees typically get the same benefits as their union co-workers. He also provided numbers that indicated wages are 12% lower in Right to Work states, the poverty rate is higher, and that employment would increase and the economy would grow better by investing in education and skills-based training.

The only person speaking on behalf of the governor's initiative was Mike Wente of Wente Plumbing and Fire Protection. Wente said the initiative could potentially provide some solutions, and there is a need to change something. Wente said 15.1% of Illinois residents are members of a union, a figure far from the majority, and noted that more than 70% of Illinois voters in November supported Rauner for governor, knowing what many of his proposals were.

Ironically, the County Board Monday approved a three-year contract with County workers who are members of Laborers Local 1197. The agreement is retroactive to the start of the County fiscal year December 1, and affects workers in the treasurer's office, county clerk and recorder office, maintenance workers, and an addendum to the probation office's union proposal relating to the pension clause. There was still no action on the agreement for circuit clerk's office employees as their contract is in the hands of the judges. The agreement grants a 2% pay hike in each of the three years.

The County Board also voted to table action on a fireworks ordinance until the Board's Legislative Committee can review a revised proposal. Board Chairman Jim Niemann said he spoke with the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office, which he said has authority over fireworks sales and use. Niemann said he plans to make changes in the proposed measure and then submit it to the Fire Marshal's Office for a review. In the meantime, work can begin on the process of training those who want to sell or use the fireworks. 

County Health Department Administrator Rebecca Merten again voiced her opposition to the fireworks legislation, saying statistics from the fireworks industry promoted at last month's meeting were skewed to support a pro-fireworks position.

Also Monday, the County Board heard that Southeastern Container plans to return just under $11,000 in abated tax dollars since they are leaving town before fulfilling an employee commitment can be completed. 

Other action by the County Board:

--the budget was amended to accommodate $63,625 from the Buffett Foundation for a K-9 vehicle for the sheriff's department

--J&J Ventures was granted permission to install ATMs in the County Government Center and the County Office Building as long as there is no expense to the County

--CASA will receive a lump sum payment of fines and fees collected for them through the courts

--a new three-year agreement was approved with Bushue Human Resources for HR work on behalf of the County

--local attorney Chris Koester was formally approved to assist the County in a lawsuit involving Effingham City-County Ambulance Service with the County's insurance carrier paying Koester for his work

--the Effingham County Housing Authority will continue to pay payment in lieu of property tax payments

--authority was given to proceed with an Effingham County Heroes Memorial for the lawn of the historic Courthouse, with county and municipal police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders to be remembered on the memorial

--Law Day was set for May 7

--location was set for the southeast corner of the lawn of the historic Courthouse for the memorials envisioned to remember those who died in the line of duty

--a decision on new software for the county clerk and recorder's office was tabled to make sure the County is getting the best deal 

--bids were awarded for road oil and patch mix for county and township roads at a savings of about $25,000 from last year

--Jeffrey Evans, Kyle Willenburg and Donnye Davis were named fire district trustees, Evans at Tri-County at Beecher City, Willenburg at Altamont, and Davis at Watson

--County Coroner Duane Guffey explained he has money accumulated in a fund that will allow him to buy a newer vehicle for use by his department with the current vehicle being returned to the Sheriff's Department

--Board member Karen Luchtefeld, who serves on the CEFS Board reported that Golden Circle Nutrition Site meals in Beecher City will drop to four days a week beginning in May, and that there will be no Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program this year, since there's no money to fund the project.